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Oak Park High School

Opinion: The importance of mental health

There are over 5,300 colleges in the United States, and upwards of 10,000 in the world. People take gap years, go to community colleges, and even go to school online.

For further education, the sky is the limit. So, whoever you are, whatever your GPA or standardized test scores are, if you want to, you can go to college.

Now, yes, I understand why people freak out over college — I do it too! And having occasional nervous thoughts and feelings about your future is one thing — however, prioritizing college over your health, happiness, and entire life, seems to me like a little too much.

I know what you’re thinking — another kid telling me not to worry about my future. What does this idiot know, anyways?

And you’re right. I’m no professional with eight master’s degrees and 14 Ph.D.s in human psychology and whatever else might make me qualified to say these things.

I am, however, a high school student at a pretty competitive school with eyes, ears, and the ability to process information.

And I see my friends and peers having panic attacks, crying in the bathroom and doing all sorts of things to keep that perfect 4.0.

And from my limited knowledge of basic medicine, I’m pretty sure that’s not healthy. After all, on the questionnaires at the doctor’s office, I’m fairly certain checking “yes,” for “have anxiety attacks over trivial things that nobody will remember in 15 years,” is not what mentally healthy people do.

I read about a student in California last year who was apparently happy, successful and at a good (yet competitive) high school in Orange County.

This student committed suicide.

This kid is the reason I am writing this opinion. At first, I was shocked, and almost immediately assumed it was bullying or trouble at home that led him to take his own life.

I then read excerpts of his suicide note, and found out that he wasn’t bullied at all. In fact, it was the competitive nature of his school that pushed him over the edge.

“One slip up makes a kid feel like the smallest person in the world. You are looked at as a loser if you don’t go to college or if you get a certain GPA or test score. All anyone talks about is how great they are or how great their kid is… It’s all about how great I am. It’s never about the other kid. The kid who maybe does not play a sport, have a 4.0 GPA, but displays great character… So much pressure is placed on the students to do well that I couldn’t do it anymore,” the student wrote in his suicide note.

This student’s situation, however, was not treated like the wake-up call it should have been. In fact, suicide rates have been going up.

The rate for children aged 10-17 who seriously consider suicide went up over 70 percent from the rate in 2010, and in 2016 alone, the rate for Americans 15-24 years old who seriously considered suicide rose 13.15 percent.

There is no easy solution to the increasing suicide rates. Many schools nationwide are increasing awareness, and trying to give students the help they need. And this is a fantastic start, which, I’m sure, is already helping students.

However, it is not enough. And the attempts will not be enough until the suicide rates go down to zero.

Because, frankly, the fact that we live in a society where more than zero people are forced to take their own lives, to have to live for even a second while needing help they are not receiving, is shameful.

But, together, we can make a difference, and we can create change. Even if this change does not save everyone, if it saves somebody, it is work worth doing.

Work that makes a difference, even if the difference was just made to one town, one family, or one individual.